For the longest time, coaches have only considered the need for their athletes to get adequate rest from the perspective of “recovery.” While you must pair this with training stimuli to get adaptation, it’s far from the only reason to prioritize sufficient slumber.
Sleep is also imperative if your clients or athletes are going to commit what they’re learning to long-term memory.
A study conducted by Matthew Walker and referenced in his excellent book Why We Sleep compared undergrads who prepared for a test over several evenings and went to bed at a reasonable time versus those who pulled a pre-exam all-nighter. The results showed that “there was a 40 percent deficit in the ability of the sleep-deprived group to cram new facts into the brain (i.e. to make new memories).”
Most of the studies on this topic have been done with classroom students, but the gym is an equally rich learning environment (and perhaps more so, particularly for kinesthetic learners). Every time an athlete does something physical, it’s an expression of skill, and each skill has an intensely cognitive component.
Simply learning a new motor pattern or honing an existing one in the gym or on the practice field is only half the job when it comes to skill acquisition and progression. For it to take, getting enough premium quality shut-eye is imperative.
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